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03-06-2016 | Original Paper | Uitgave 9/2016

Journal of Child and Family Studies 9/2016

Family Members as Boundary Managers: Behaviors that Promote and Limit Service Members’ Involvement in Daily Family Life

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 9/2016
Christina M. Marini, Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, Young In Kwon, Colleen E. Pagnan


When military service members deploy, they move outside the immediate boundary of their families. However, because boundaries are permeable, service members remain a psychological part of their families in spite of their physical absence. The extent of service members’ continued involvement in daily family life is likely tied to their non-deployed family members’ actions to manage this boundary. In the current study, we were interested in identifying non-deployed family members’ actions to either promote, or limit, service members’ involvement in daily family life during deployment. These actions by family members constitute boundary management behaviors. We collected qualitative data from a sample of Army reservists (N = 13) and their household family members (N = 15). Findings indicated that family members used a variety of boundary management behaviors during deployment, some of which promoted reservists’ involvement, and others which limited it. In addition, boundary management behaviors varied by who they targeted, their intentionality, and their implications for reservists’ well-being. Findings illustrate the value in equipping military families with language that enables them to communicate openly about the significance of their boundary management behavior over the course of deployment so that they may arrive at a balance between stretching and restricting boundaries that best suits their unique needs.

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